Nearly 3 million American men are now living with prostate cancer. Pictured: Stiller speaks at a 2009 event that raised funds for the fight against cancer.
Men between the ages of 55-69 are encouraged to discuss with their doctor about undergoing prostate cancer screening, the U.S. Taylor says the test saved his life.
The new recommendation from the USPSTF is the latest chapter of a long debate over PSA-based prostate cancer screening.
In a draft guideline released today, the task force takes the position that for men aged 55 to 69, the decision to undergo screening "is an individual one". Those 70 and older shouldn't get screened.
According to the task force, many prostate cancers grow slowly or not at all, so some men will not experience any symptoms, nor will they die from the cancer.
"Many men will have a high PSA at some point in their lives, and most of those will not be prostate cancer but that will be something that the patient and doctor will be anxious about", Dr. Alex Krist, a member of the USPSTF, told ABC News. But, the new guidance opens the door to screening on a case-by-case basis for the 55 to 69 age group. But with no effective way to tell the risky prostate cancers from the harmless ones, most men undergo surgery or radiation after diagnosis.
One of the studies that influenced the committee's decision came in October, when researchers showed that doctors could safely monitor a patient's prostate cancer - largely through repeated PSA checks - without rushing to treat it.
Of those 240, biopsies would find that only 100 have prostate cancer.
The absolute number or how quickly the number rises from one year to another helps doctors to determine if a prostate biopsy is indicated.
Should middle-aged men get routine blood tests for prostate cancer?
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Though the draft recommendation applies to African-American men, who are at increased risk for developing and dying from prostate cancer, task force chair Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, said this high-risk group has been woefully understudied. However, this can also be attributed to other biological functions such as an infection or an enlarged prostate. Meanwhile, the estimated cost of coping with mammogram false positives and other types of unnecessary care in breast cancer has been estimated at $4 billion per year.
"It sounds like cooler heads have prevailed", said Dr. Jim Hu, a urologist and prostate cancer specialist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center who called the old advice "draconian".
Whether or not to screen has been a hot-button issue, because the treatment for prostate cancer can be more harmful than the cancer itself.
"He said we are in time", Blumberg said. Now, the panel says discussion between a man and his doctor should guide decisions around getting the test. It can signal cancer but also can be caused by less serious prostate problems.
In breast cancer, the concern expressed by many studies has been that mammography screening doesn't result in significantly lower death rates from the disease. Elevated levels of this particular protein may be a sign of cancer. Since then, PSA screening rates have declined by as much as 10 percent, and now fewer than one-third of US men get the tests.
The American Academy of Family Physicians will conduct its own review of the evidence.
The government task force found that a newer approach, known as "active surveillance", reduced some of the harms associated with treatment.
The proposed guidelines do not specify how often men might want to screen their PSA levels, if they choose to do so. "I'm not sure if we could have been in time if we had done this a year or two from now", Blumberg said. It does not recommend earlier testing for black men and those with a family history but says they should know their risks are higher. Other groups say start earlier, depending on family history of prostate cancer and other factors. But many men can live with the disease for years without its causing serious illness.
But she added that the task force's guidelines have helped, giving doctors a citable source to introduce the notion that a positive mammogram result is not necessarily a big deal.